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LOOKING BACK: Court for Salvation Army Band after hitting wrong note

LOOKING BACK: Court for Salvation Army Band after hitting wrong note

Wednesday 24 August 2022

LOOKING BACK: Court for Salvation Army Band after hitting wrong note

Wednesday 24 August 2022


Noisy neighbours can be a real nuisance, especially when there is an “obnoxious drum” involved and claims of spooked animals and ill health - these were the accusations laid against the Salvation Army Band in Jersey, when band members were taken to court to answer charges of breaching the peace with their music making.

On 27 February 1889, a note had appeared in the Jersey Times and British Press newspaper recording that “a case is likely to be tried before the Police Magistrate tomorrow which will introduce the principle whether the members of the Salvation Army with their band have the right to annoy persons at all hours both day and night”.

Sure enough, the following day members of the Salvation Army appeared in the Magistrate's Court to discuss their conduct under the headline: "Charge Against Officers of the Salvation Army".

This surprising court case followed a number of incidents in Gorey Village. Army Hall was situated in New Road in the Village from the late 1800s to the late 1950s. Generally, relations between the organisation and villagers were amicable but, on this occasion, the conduct of their band landed the Salvation Army in court.

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Pictured: St Martin Honorary Police Register relating to the Salvation Army arrests. (Jersey Heritage)

It was reported that a number of complaints had been received by the Constable of Grouville, G J Pepin, about the volume and frequency of the band playing in the Village. The Constable had reported to the Solicitor General that the complaints against the band included playing loudly on Sunday evenings while the church bells were ringing and practising late into the night on weekdays.

On 2 February, he wrote to the Captain of the Salvation Army, John Thomas Humphries, informing him that he wished to see him. The Lieutenant, Edward Thomas Groome, came in his place and was told that he should warn the band not to play in the future. This he refused to do.

The next Sunday, the musical instruments were quiet but the following week they were reportedly worse than ever, prompting the Constable to give them strict instructions on 22 February not to play. This was ignored and the Constable warned the band that they would be summoned to Court to answer a charge of breach of the peace. They were warned once again not to play until the conclusion of the case.

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Pictured: Details from the Salvation Army court case. (Jersey Heritage)

On 25 February, the band once again refused to budge, playing at full volume. The big drummer, William Springate, was the person deemed to be causing the most nuisance, for obvious reasons, and so the Constable tried to seize the drum from him.

Humphries, finally seeing reason, ordered Springate to hand over "the obnoxious drum", however, Groome shouted out that the police were committing a robbery and that the drummer should not give in. A fracas ensued and eventually the police managed to apprehend the offending instrument and hid it in the Centenier's house.

The Court sat on 28 February and discussed the case in great length. Centenier Picot was one of the witnesses in the case, saying that he had received many complaints from residents of the Village, both sick and healthy, about the disturbance caused by the band. He said that when asked, Groome refused to stop as there were "'dens of infamy' and 'houses of debauchery' in the place...and also that they 'wished to beat the devil out'."

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Pictured: Details from the Salvation Army court case. (Jersey Heritage)

Dr Brayn reported to the Court that there were several people in Gorey Village who suffered from heart disease and also young children whose health was affected by the noise.

John Amy, who was related to Centenier Picot, claimed that his two-year-old daughter was sent into convulsions by the noise made by the band and Charles Blampied claimed his horse was spooked by the playing, adding that if his servant hadn't gone off to calm the animal, some harm may have been caused. He had asked them to stop playing but they had refused.

However, others, such as a Mr Proper, said the band often played near his home and rather than being a nuisance, he loved to hear the music. Other witnesses agreed.

In summing up, Advocate Durell, speaking for the Salvation Army, said that he would not attach much import to the case except for the fact that it would affect the rights of the organisation to play music going forward. He mentioned that one of the chief complainants, Elias Baudains, was in the employ of the Solicitor General, which he suggested was why he was prosecuting the case so vigorously.

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Pictured: Details from the Salvation Army court case. (Jersey Heritage)

The Solicitor General denied this emphatically, saying that the Advocate for the defence had ignored the evidence offered. He said that he had been accused of trying to crush the work of the Salvation Army but questioned whether "that work depended upon the "big drum" being played late in the evening to the detriment of the health of the community?".

In summing up, the Magistrate said that on general principle he thought the Salvation Army, as members of a Christian community, might think about not playing in front of the houses of sick people when bid to do so. However, he didn't think the case could be considered as an interruption of the public peace and with that, he liberated the accused to continue making their music. The verdict was met with applause from within the Court.

Pictured top: Members of the Salvation Army outside Army Hall in New Road. (Jersey Heritage)

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